Wendy Hinman Interviews with Robert Cocuzzo, Author of Road to San Donato

“The Road to San Donato by Robert Cocuzzo is a moving multi-generational American immigrant story. A powerful meditation on the complexities of war, refugee and immigrant experiences.” Wendy Hinman for Foreword Reviews (Read her full review in Foreword Reviews here.)

Reviewer Wendy Hinman Interviews Robert Cocuzzo, Author of The Road to San Donato: Fathers, Sons, and Cycling Across Italy.

WENDY HINMAN: While your book is a travel memoir of cycling through hill-country in Italy, it is also about many other things: the refugee/immigrant experience; the parent-child relationship, responsibility, and the meaning of love; the ravages and uncertainties of war and the meaning of sacrifice and guilt; and dealing with our own personal gremlins. It’s a pilgrimage and a journey of self-discovery but also one of forging a deeper bond with the people who know us best yet challenge us the most—family. What did you find most difficult about your journey? Was it the logical challenges, the bikes breaking down or your bodies protesting such a punishing schedule or was it the dynamics of your relationship with your father and your ailing grandfather or what you might discover in San Donato that worried you most?

ROBERT COCUZZO: With any adventure, you’re going to be tested. On a subconscious level, that’s really why you go: to put yourself in a situation that shakes you out of your normal routine and allows you to discover new depths within yourself. The 425-mile cycling trip I embarked on with my father certainly posed a whole host of physical and logistical challenges, but the real tests were far more mental and emotional.

Before we left the States, I anxiously pondered how my relationship with my father would fare when thrust into a set of extreme circumstances. Would we flourish or flounder? Would we return home with a new level of communication or would we never speak to one another again? Navigating our relationship, both while pedaling the bike and then writing the book, proved to be the greatest adventure of them all.

WENDY HINMAN: Through travel, we often learn about ourselves as we face challenges along the way. Situations force us to draw upon inner resources we didn’t know we had and face our fears. In my seven-year sailing voyage, I pushed myself beyond what I thought I could do and discovered a bolder person than I had known before. What surprised you most about this journey and how it affected you personally? In what ways did this trip catch you unprepared?

ROBERT COCUZZO: Whether it’s blind optimism or willful ignorance, I have a habit of simply assuming things are all going to work out. When we set off on this wild adventure, there were so many questions surrounding our preparedness that I was willing to simply let go unanswered. Were we physically capable of cycling the distance we had planned? Would we be able to figure out how to navigate hundreds of miles from Florence to a tiny little pinprick on the map? Would we even be able to find rental bikes that would be suitable for this kind of long-distance ride? Suffice it to say, there were a lot blind spots that could have caused us to crash.

Ultimately, it was my own physical deterioration that surprised me most. My body began failing to the point where I thought I’d just have to stop. In those moments, when I was in the deepest, darkest reaches of my pain cave, I thought about the book Touching the Void, the true story of a climber who falls into a crevasse and decides that his only way towards survival is to climb deeper into the abyss. So it was for me. Through suffering I became stronger. The key was that I had to keep moving.

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Read the full interview from Foreword Reviews here.

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